When termites swarm, they’re looking for a new home to make their colony. You’ll notice that these pests will have wings at times, but more often than not, they’re wingless insects that will eat away at the very wooden beams that help make your home stable.
Anyone who has a termite infestation will want to know how to get rid of termites as quickly as possible.
The longer these pests are allowed to stay in your home, the more damage they’ll do. You can’t just wait until they go away and push the problem to the back of your to-do list. Termites are destructive in nature and will destroy any wooden structure in their way.
Professionals will need to be called in to exterminate a true infestation.
Note: If termites have been in your home for any length of time, you’ll want to have your home examined to ensure that the integrity of the home is still intact.
Table of Contents
- What Do Termites Look Like
- 6 Proven Methods on How to Get Rid of Termites
- How to Check for Termites
- Hiring a Professional to Inspect Your Home
What Do Termites Look Like
One of the most confusing things about termites is that they look just like ants. It’s amazing how termites look like ants because they even have wings at certain times in their lives, much like flying ants do.
A lot of people ask are termites ants?
The answer is no.
But their appearances are similar. You need to be able to tell the difference between the two so that you know what type of infestation you have.
Winged Termites and Winged Ants
There are two types of termites that exist: winged and wingless. Both of these pests look like their ant counterparts, but there are ways that a person with a trained eye will be able to accurately identify both of these pests.
But, you also need to know why termites have wings in the first place.
Winged termites are called termite swarms. The term “swarm” comes from the termite’s ability to fly in swarms and scout out new areas for a colony. These termites will swarm at different “seasons,” depending on the type of species. But one thing always stays the same: termites only swarm in warm weather.
You won’t see flying termites out and about in the middle of winter.
Swarming occurs at a random interval when subterranean termites are at least 3 – 4 years of age. There needs to be a certain level of maturity of the termite before they’re able to swarm. When the time is right, the termite will grow wings and take flight.
Following a heavy rainfall and warm, humid temperatures, termites grow wings and establish a new colony. This is a mating season, and both males and females will grow wings. As they fly to scout out their new ideal location for a colony, they’ll often choose a home for their colony, and if they choose your home, it’s nothing to be thrilled about.
If you see winged termites in the home, it’s likely a mature colony that has been present for a while.
Wings may often be found on window sills or on the floor, and this means that the termite has mated, and is going to burrow into the mud and lay eggs. The female will become the queen of her own colony, and the queen can live a good life that allows them to become plump and fat.
The main goal of the female termite is to reproduce.
Some of these females can lay up to 250 million eggs in her lifetime, but the queen never makes it back to the surface. Some female termites can produce 30,000 eggs in a day. These queens sacrifice a lot for their colony. Huge in size, these pests have small legs that can’t propel them, leaving them immobile.
Her king will remain with her for her lifetime, which can last up to 15 years.
Soldiers and workers will make their way up into a wooden structure and will create shafts that allow them to access their queen and king. It’s an elaborate system, and this system allows termites to be able to survive in the wild.
What color are termites? Are termites black? These are the questions people always ask. Termites are either black when they’re of the subterranean species or red when they’re drywood swarmers.
- Subterranean Nesting Habits: The subterranean species will nest in the mud and stay in the group. You’ll often find that there are large mounds present if a subterranean colony exists.
- Drywood Nesting Habits: Drywood species will nest inside of the wood in the home.
Both of these termites will cause damage to the home. Subterranean species will make mud tubes that go through the ground and enter into your home. In both cases, your home will be the main source of food for these unwanted pests.
And when trying to distinguish between the termite and ant, differences can be seen in these areas:
- Antennae: The antennae of the termite are straight. Ants have bent antennae.
- Wings: If the termite has wings, they’ll be of equal lengths. Interestingly, ants have uneven wings.
- Waist: The waist of the termite is straight, while ants have a pinched waist with a larger “bulb” at the end.
In terms of length, both of these insects are similar in size. Termites are about 3/8 inch in length, or 0.95 cm to 1 cm in length. Workers will be slightly smaller in size. If you find a termite and can examine them, you’ll find that the legs are short and stubby. There will be six legs in total.
There will be four total wings on a winged termite; two wings on each side.
Some people ask are termites insects? Yes. And for the homeowner, there are two main types of termites to be worried about:
Or, non-winged and winged.
Soldier termites do exist, and the goal of these pests is to protect the colony against any enemies that may attack. The mandibles of the soldier are larger than the worker.
Are termites blind?
Workers are blind, and they’re also paler in color.
Where Do Termites Live in the House?
If you want to be able to proceed with your termite removal and want to get rid of termites in your home, you first need to be able to find them. This is no easy task, and why many people will call on professional exterminators for help.
The bad part is that these pests can go undetected for a long time.
If you answer yes to the following question, you likely have a major infestation to deal with: are termites visible?
The 3 Most Common Areas Where Termites Are Found
If you see termites in your home, it’s cause for action. And if you suspect that you have an infestation, there are three areas that are most commonly associated with termites:
- Slab foundations
- Wood touching the dirt around a home
In the last example, a porch may have its beams touching the dirt outside, which will provide easy access for termites.
But if you want to get technical, then ask yourself this question: what do termites eat? The answer is wood. Termites, unlike humans or most animals or pests, are able to digest wood. This is done through bacteria, enzymes and protozoa in the termite’s body. For humans, we don’t have the right genetic makeup to eat wood.
Termites are able to digest cellulose, which is the fibrous material found in wood.
Are termites dangerous? They won’t eat you or your dog, but they’ll eat any wood in your home. Slow and steady, it would take over 3,000 years for one termite to eat an entire 1,000-square-foot home.
But colonies can be as little as one or numerous per acre.
The size of the colony is a big concern. Colonies can have thousands or millions of termites. If all million termites eat the same beam of wood, they would devour it in a short period of time, leading to significant structural damage.
There may also be termites in furniture, in walls, in apartments – anywhere wood is present.
So, where do termites nest? Either in the mud, or in wooden structures. This may be your home if you’re unlucky, or it may be:
- In tree stumps
- In wooden mulch
- In rotting trees
But the termites will always flock to their source of food in all cases: wood and plants.
What Can Termites Eat
Termites may prefer wood because it is the biggest composition of cellulose for the pest to devour. But this doesn’t mean that their mandibles can’t eat other substances. Termites can eat through:
- Thin sheet of lead
In essence, they’re equipped to cause damage to your home in multiple ways.
Are Termites Attracted to Water?
These pests may be attracted to wood, but this doesn’t mean that they’re not attracted to water, too. Termites thrive in moisture, and subterranean species will need to build their colony in soil. Water plays an important role in this process.
Leaky pipes are a primary cause of termite issues, and even clogged gutters can be an issue.
If you live in an area where standing water is allowed near the home, this is another major issue. Humidity-filled areas, such as near your home’s foundation will need to be properly ventilated, too, because this is a prime area for an infestation.
Anywhere near the home that has standing water, whether it be a pond or clogged gutters, will be an attractive spot for a nest to be built.
How to Detect Termites
The first step in termite control is to find the termite nest. You may see these pests swarming, which is a good sign that your home is under attack. A thorough termite inspection requires an immense amount of diligence and effort on your part.
Annual inspections will work very well in keeping infestations at bay, and since we’re going to tell you how to detect these pests, it’s something you can do on your own.
Termites can invade the exterior of the home quickly. There are a few areas that you’ll need to inspect to ensure that there isn’t a presence of termites. A few things to check are:
- Wood-to-Ground Contacts: Any wood from the home or yard that comes in contact with dirt are good areas to check. All along your fence should be examined as well as any porches.
- Firewood: The smell and warmth of firewood is unmatched, but if it’s close to your home, it’s going to be a problem. Place the wood 20 – 30 feet from the home. Termites will nest in the wood, and if it’s too close to the home, they may also decide to eat away at your home’s wood.
- Mulch: Wood mulch is often found in gardens and around trees. This may provide an aesthetic upgrade to your garden, but it will also be a major point of nesting for your termite friends. Replacing mulch with rocks or anythingbut mulch is a good idea.
And while your outside, you’ll also want to check for any standing water that may or may not exist. Check the gutters for any standing water, and have them cleared if you do find water in them.
Check the area near the base of the home, too, to ensure that water and moisture aren’t accumulating.
If you do find water accumulating, you’ll want to remedy the issue. Moisture or any forms of water will be a prime spot for subterranean termites to burrow into the ground and form a colony. The mud tunnels can lead right into the crawlspace of the home, where termites will feed and escape all while going undetected.
Exterior inspections are essential, but so are interior termite inspections. Are termites dangerous? Not particularly, but they can cause severe damage to a home. The cost to repair the structural damage to your home will far surpass the actual cost to do the initial work when the home was built.
A few key areas to check are:
- Baseboards: Check all along the baseboard in the home. This will be an entire examination of the home’s perimeter to look for any tubes or small pieces of “dirt” that look like they’re out of place.
- Windows Sills: There may be small pieces of dirt around window sills, too.
- Under the Sinks: Moist areas, such as under the sink and in the laundry room, should be examined. Look for small “tubes” or holes as well as tiny specks of dirt around any and all connecting pipes.
- Inside Cabinets: Cabinets, especially around sinks, should be examined.
- Crawlspaces: A prime spot for termites. You’ll want to look for any mud tubes or termites in your crawlspaces. Make sure to bring a flashlight along with you on this excursion.
- Attics: If you have an attic, take a glance in there to check for holes and any dirt that may exist.
If you think that you’ve found an area of wood that may have been infested with termites, you’ll want to grab your screwdriver and poke the wood. If the screwdriver goes into the wood easily, this is a common sign of an infestation.
You can also use the handle of the screwdriver to gently tap against the wood.
If you hear a sound that sounds like the wood is hollow, this is a good indication that termites may have eaten through the inside of the wood.
Another good indicator of a swarm is finding discarded wings. These pests will discard their wings when they’re done mating. Wings are often found on baseboards or window sills. If the windows were departed in the home, this is a good sign that a colony may have chosen your home as their new breeding ground.
An infestation that has been allowed to progress may show signs of:
- Wooden flooring that looks swollen
- Ceilings that look water damaged
There are times when the infestation has persisted for such a long time that it looks like a maze is on the wall. This is when the termites have caused significant damage. They may actually be eating away at the wall, or you may be seeing their tunnels that they burrow.
Advanced Detection Methods
There are advanced ways to try and find termites. What many people don’t know is that the wood they eat is eaten from the inside out. This means you may see a beam that looks perfectly sound and stable, but the inner part of the beam may have been eaten away, with an army of termites still inside causing their hidden, destructive damage.
When experts suspect that there is an infestation and have pinpointed a general area to search, they’ll place a stethoscope on the wall. This is the same device that your physician will use to listen to your heartbeat.
Professionals will listen for termites at work.
These pests are eating away, and while the sound they’re making inside of the wall may not be able to be heard with the human ear, a stethoscope will amplify the sound so that you’ll be able to hear these pests at work.
And this is a great way to verify if you have termites.
If the beam or piece of wood is present and visible, you can knock on it to try and detect the “hollow” sound left behind.
Wood shouldn’t be hollow, so if it is, there is a good chance that the wood has provided a feast for these tiny critters.
There are also audible sounds that may be heard when a colony is near the surface of the wood, including:
- A slight rattling sound
- The sound of paper rustling
If you do detect these sounds, you’ll want to take immediate action, whether that means using your own DIY methods for termite extermination, or calling in a professional. In the majority of cases, a professional will need to be called in to eliminate the colony and inspect the home for any structural damage that may exist.
6 Proven Methods on How to Get Rid of Termites
What kills termites? A lot of things, and some treatments are far more potent than others. A few of the methods that work well are:
1. Cardboard Traps
You can lure termites into a trap and discard of them, but you also need to understand that this will not kill the king and queen. As a result, this should only be done as a form of slowing the population growth and not a true way to kill all of the termites in your home.
Getting started is easy. You’ll need:
- Stacks of cardboard
And that’s it. Termites will eat the cardboard because they’re after the cellulose in the cardboard. So, place the box stacks in an area where you think or know termites are present. You’ll want to wait a few days and inspect the box for termites.
A few hundred to thousands may enter into the cardboard and be feasting away.
Next, you’ll want to either cover the pile of cardboard in an insecticide known for killing termites or burn the box. In the event that you want to burn the box, you’ll need to do it in a safe environment. If you have a fireplace, this is recommended. Otherwise, proceed with the utmost caution.
Are termites edible? They are to nematodes. These are small worms that are known to eat a variety of pests in your garden, and they naturally eat termites. People will place nematodes in their garden to kill invasive species rather than using insecticides or sprays.
You’ll find nematodes at your local garden store.
There are a variety of nematodes available, and you’ll want to plant these worms immediately if the soil is above 60 degrees. You can also store them in the refrigerator. The reason for this is that these worms are harmed by the sun, so you’ll want to keep them in a safe spot until the right time, and then plant them in the ground.
Nematodes are best used for subterranean termites and should be planted as close to the termite mound as possible.
This is an ideal method and will kill an entire colony.
3. Boric Acid
Boric acid for termites is very effective, and you’ll want to make a termite spray to be able to use this method properly. You’ll want to add a few scoops of boric acid into a spray bottle along with water.
Shaking the mixture up, you’ll want to spray any areas where termites are with boric acid.
You can even buy a piece of wood to use as bait and spray it with the mixture. Sprinkling boric acid in areas that termites frequent is a good method, too. What happens is that the boric acid will cause the termites to dehydrate and die a terrible death.
The substance also attacks the pest’s nervous system.
4. Orange Oil
Did you know that orange oil even existed? This is an oil that is a known termite killer, and even a lot of professionals will use this oil to eradicate termites.
You’ll find the oil online, and the main ingredient in the oil is d-limonene. The name is derived from the lemon, and this is the compound that gives the rind of a citrus fruit its unique smell. What you need to do is apply this oil to surfaces where you know termites frequent.
You can use gloves and an oil rag or cotton balls for the application.
A generous amount can be applied to most surfaces and furniture without worry. The smell will be very potent, but it will kill the termites when they come in contact with the substance. In fact, many cleaning products also include orange oil because of its ability to clean so well and its fresh scent.
Termites in the Wall
It’s unsettling to think that an army of termites are munching away at the innards of your home, going undetected all along the way. But termites will do this to countless homes per year, and they may be doing it to your home, too.
If you’ve followed the advice above, you’ve already listened inside of the wall for termites, and realized that they’ve made all of the beams of your home nice and hollow inside.
What some people will do is take a small drill and drill a hole into the middle of the beam. Then, they use a needle (much like the needles used for taking blood) to inject the orange oil inside of the infested piece of wood. This can be repeated numerous times per week in an effort to kill the termites.
A trick that I like to follow is:
- Listen for activity
- Inject the orange oil into the drilled hole
- Listen for activity every 24 hours
- Reapply as necessary
You’ll need some spackle and paint to fix up the hole.
If you see termites around the home, you can make a termite spray out of the orange oil and spray them, too. This will be a direct contact spray, so it will be very effective.
5. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a potent pest killer, and since it’s all natural, you can use it anywhere. Many people will place DE in their garden, around the yard and in their home because it’s so versatile.
This is a natural substance that is actually fossilized algae.
The small shape of this substance ensures that it’s not harmful to animals or humans, but for small pests, they’ll ingest it or come in contact with it. The DE will puncture the exoskeleton, which will then be compromised.
Once this occurs, the insect will begin to dry out and die.
We recommend sprinkling this substance everywhere possible where termites are present:
- Outside near mounds
Anywhere that there are termites, sprinkle a thin layer of DE and monitor the situation. It will be a slow and steady process that needs to be repeated every few days. When possible, vacuum up the last coating of DE and apply to kill the termites.
6. Commercial Products
If you don’t mind using commercial products, you can kill most insects with ease. You’ll want to remain very cautious if you have kids or animals that may be harmed by these professional products. A few of the most potent products include:
TERRO Ant & Termite Killer
One of the best ways to kill termites and carpenter ants is to use TERRO spray. This spray comes with a narrow nozzle that can be used in cracks or drilled holes, or you can choose to apply a wide spray to kill a lot of termites quickly.
Able to be used indoors and outdoors, this spray controls termites for up to 4 weeks.
Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection & Killing Stakes
A potent termite killer. This is a great method to detect and kill termites. All you need to do is install these stakes (it takes just minutes), and they will kill any foraging termites they come across. It’s fast and effective, and a digging tool is even included with the kit to make installing even easier.
This acts as a bait, and the top will pop up to warn you of any termites in the area.
What this does is help you find areas of the yard where termites frequent the most. This will also deliver poison via the stake to kill any termites that are present. Over time, the termites will bring the substance back to the colony and spread the poison among their friends and the large queen.
If you want to put a stop to termite larvae and the expansion of a termite nest, you need to give Termidor Foam a try. This is a product used and recommended by professionals. Offered in a pressurized can, users will fill in any holes and entry areas with the foam.
Termites will eat away at the foam, which is a poison that kills them.
You don’t want to use this substance near food, or in areas where food is prepared or kept. A lot of people will drill a hole, fill it with this foam, and put a nail back in the hole to ensure the fleeing termites can’t escape your wrath.
How to Check for Termites
There are several ways to check for termites, but some of the most common and effective ways include:=
The most obvious sign of a termite infestation is damage. But damage can also be an indication that the infestation is getting out of control – which means you’ll need to act quickly.
Termites do their dirty work in hidden places, and in the early stages of an infestation, most homeowners don’t notice any damages.
But once the infestation progresses, damage becomes more apparent – and repairs are costlier as a result.
With that said, damage is the most effective way to check for termites. And these pests can cause damage to a number of areas in and around your property.
1. Termite Mud Tubes
One of the most common signs of termite infestation is mud tubes, and these are one of the first things exterminators look for when inspecting.
Mud tubes are like roadways, and you’ll often find them near the termite nest. These pencil-sized termite tunnels can also be found on stone or concrete foundations as well as wood structures.
There are three main types of termite mud tubes, according to Terminix:
- Exploratory: These paths extend only from the soil.
- Working: These create a path between the nest in the soil and the wood.
- Drop: These create a path from the wood back to the soil.
Termite tubes are most commonly used by subterranean termites, and you’re likely to find bits of dirt inside. That’s because the tunnels are made of a combination of wood and soil.
If you see a mud tube, don’t panic just yet. You be looking at an inactive tunnel from a previous infestation. The best way to determine if the tube is still active is to break off a section in the center. If the damage is repaired in a few days, you know the termites are still active.
Termite tubes can extend up to 60 feet or more, and they’re most likely to be found on buildings that are at least two stories high.
2. Termite Holes (A.K.A. Exit Holes)
As termites tunnel through wood, they sometimes open up a tiny hole to the outside world. Those holes are often quickly covered with soil particles and other materials these insects have on hand. Covering the hole helps keep the termites protected from predators, and keeps their workspace warm and moist.
But at times, those holes are not covered, and these are what’s called “exit holes.” Exit holes are usually seen just before mating season, and appear as small markings in drywall, wood and other materials termites eat. In some cases, these holes serve as escape routes for winged termite as they take their first flight out of the nest.
After the flying termites escape, nymphs will cover the hole using a substance made of soil, feces and wood particles.
It’s important to note that other wood-eating insects will also create exit holes, including carpenter bees, beetles and carpenter ants. But most of these insects won’t bother to cover up their holes. Carpenter and acrobat ants will cover holes, but usually with a powdery-like substance that is similar to sawdust.
The best way to determine whether you’re looking at a termite exit hole is to assess the size of the opening. Termite holes are 1/8” or smaller, and the filling substance will be brown and plaster-like.
3. Evidence of Swarmers
When a termite colony is well-established, they begin producing winged adults, which are sexually mature and able to fly off in the spring when temperatures heat up.
If you see winged black termites in or around your home, there’s a very good chance that a nest is nearby.
But how can you tell if it’s termites and not ants? That’s right – there are flying ants, too. And they look very similar to termite swarmers.
Here’s how to tell the difference between the two:
- Termites have wider waists, whereas ants have wasp-like waists.
- A flying termite’s back wings are the same size as its front wings.
- Termites have straight antennae, while ants have antennae with jointed bends and elbows.
Discarded swarmer wings are another sign of a termite infestation. The shedding of their wings is a natural behavior, and you’ll typically find them near emergence sites, spider webs and window sills.
Yes, termites can make noise, and you can hear it.
While these pests do their best to stay hidden and quiet, soldiers will sound the alarm if something is wrong. They make noise by banging their heads into the wood.
Termites can make other noises, too, like paper rustling. When these insects tunnel close to the surface of the wood, their activity can sound like papers rustling together.
And of course, termite infested wood will make a hollow sound when tapped.
It’s important to note that termite sounds are typically faint and not heard by homeowners. Exterminators use a stethoscope to hear them at work and the alarm bells they sound (i.e. banging their heads into the wood).
Hiring a Professional to Inspect Your Home
If you believe you might have termites in your home, you can use the methods above to confirm your suspicions. However, it’s important to have a professional exterminator come in and perform a thorough inspection.
Termites can cause serious damage to your home and property, and professional extermination is recommended to tackle the problem as quickly and safely as possible. Extensive termite damage can render a home uninhabitable, and depending on the severity of the infestation, the damage can reach these levels relatively quickly. In other words, this is not a pest problem you want to tackle yourself.
Once you’ve confirmed that you are, in fact, dealing with a termite infestation, the exterminator can offer recommendations on how to best remedy the problem and help you rid your home of termites once and for all.